5 Questions to Help You Choose a Diet That Works for You

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What is the best diet? There is no single diet plan that works for everyone. The best diet for you is the one that you stick to for the long term. It's the healthy eating plan that fits your lifestyle and is easy for you to follow.

So how do you sort through the marketing claims for hundreds of diets to find a weight loss plan that works? Start by asking yourself these six critical questions. The answers will reveal the diet plan that is most likely to work for you.

Do I Need a Diet?

The first step is to determine if you need a weight-loss program at all. What are your motives and goals? If, for example, you have recently had a baby and are concerned about retaining pregnancy weight, remember that your body needs calories to heal and to produce breast milk.

And if you want to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, you could set a goal to do just that. Weight loss need not factor into the plan to change your habits.

What Is My Budget?

Before you begin shopping for the best weight loss plan, decide if you have money to invest and how much you want to spend.

Then, based on that information, evaluate the diet plans that look most interesting to you and decide if they fit your budget. Be sure to evaluate all costs that might be involved. This includes the cost of food, support services, reference materials, and exercise classes. Also, factor in the amount of time you'll need to be on the plan to lose your goal weight.

Keep in mind that the cost of a diet program is not necessarily a predictor of the plan's success. Just because you pay to lose weight doesn't mean that the weight will necessarily disappear.

However, there is some evidence that suggests commercial weight loss plans are more successful than trying to lose weight on your own. Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who followed a structured commercial plan lost slightly more weight than those who followed a self-help plan.

But if you don't have money to spend on a commercial diet, don't worry. There are some great online weight loss programs that are cheap or even free. These apps, online workouts, and virtual coaching services are perfect if you are a do-it-yourself type who prefers to be independent. They give you the tools you need to create your own weight loss program at home.

Do I Have Health Issues?

Your healthcare provider can help you determine which health issues should be considered when choosing the best diet.

People with diabetes, for example, have specific nutritional needs that may limit the types of diets they can choose. People with high blood pressure are great candidates for the DASH program, which helps limit salt consumption. Patients who are diagnosed with arthritis may be more comfortable with plans that do not involve as much weight-bearing exercise.​

Does My Schedule Allow for Food Preparation?

One of the reasons that many diets fail is that busy schedules get in the way of good eating habits. It's hard to pass by a fast-food restaurant after working a 10-hour day. But if you know that a healthy meal is waiting at home, making a good choice might be easier.

Think about how much time you have for grocery shopping and food preparation. Be realistic. If your life simply does not allow enough time to prepare healthy meals, then a program that includes prepared food might be a better weight loss plan for you. Review diet delivery meal programs to learn if one fits into your budget and lifestyle.

Do I Have Social Support?

An important part of every successful weight-loss program is social support. A supportive spouse, a neighbor who's on the same plan, or a community group can help provide the emotional support you need through your journey. 

Some gyms, neighborhood community centers, senior citizen groups, and hospitals offer weight loss support services. Or look for a program at your religious center. A study by the University of Illinois, Department of Medicine, found that adding a religious component to the weight loss programs of some women improved their results.

If the people around you aren't available or supportive, find a commercial plan that includes a social component. Programs such as WW (Weight Watchers) provide support services at locations around the country. Weigh-ins, recipe exchanges, and group meetings provide excellent opportunities to connect with others who are trying to lose weight.

What Have I Tried in the Past, and Why Did It Fail?

Evaluate your weight loss history and make a list of the reasons that past efforts have been unsuccessful.

Were the food choices too restrictive? Then choose a weight-loss plan that teaches good portion control tips rather than specific food restrictions. For example, Seattle Sutton allows you to eat many different foods but in smaller portions. The Atkins Diet, on the other hand, restricts consumption of most carbohydrates.

Did you always feel hungry? Then the best plan might be one that allows for greater food intake, but emphasizes low-calorie foods such as fruits, vegetables, essential lean protein, and dairy. Volumetrics and the Five Factor Diet both emphasize regular full meals. The Jenny Craig plan also uses different strategies to help you eat more food at each meal.

Did you lose motivation? Then choose a plan that includes accountability to a friend, a support group, or a weight loss professional. This may help you to learn motivational skills that will keep your plan on track.

A Word From Verywell

The right weight-loss plan is the one that keeps you healthy, happy, and on track to whatever goal you're seeking. In the process of choosing the best plan for you, try to ignore the claims and advertisements or celebrity endorsements. Instead, focus on your own physical, emotional and lifestyle considerations to find a plan that helps you reach your weight loss goal.

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  1. Heshka S, Anderson JW, Atkinson RL, et al. Weight loss with self-help compared with a structured commercial program: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2003;289(14):1792-8. doi:10.1001/jama.289.14.1792

  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. DASH Eating Plan.

  3. Fitzgibbon ML, Stolley MR, Ganschow P, et al. Results of a faith-based weight loss intervention for black women. J Natl Med Assoc. 2005;97(10):1393-402.